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Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

Letting go of a little wedding-day control can be scary, but it’s well worth it

By Miriam Axel-Lute

It’s your wedding day. You’re getting dressed in the most expensive thing you’ll ever wear, letting your best friend remind you to take deep breaths, getting contemplative about the meaning of commitment. Your mind is overflowing with . . . the fact that the flowers are late. Whether cousin Frank is late enough that the ceremony should start without him. The fact that guests are parking on the retreat center’s flower beds.

It’s all well and good to be your own wedding planner. It can even be fun. But if weddings are part theater, then the wedding couple should be the directors, not the stage managers. Sadly, all too often this is not the case. One groom describes “an ugly interlude” in the middle of his reception involving an angry caterer demanding payment. I know a bride who wrapped up her reception by lugging the church’s sound system back to its storage closet, and a couple who ended up with their wine entirely unopened because they forgot to delegate someone to start the toasting.

You can have a wedding day where your main job is to enjoy yourself, but you have to remember to put delegating on your list of tasks to do beforehand. My mantra in the weeks leading up to my wedding was “I will not touch a clipboard on my wedding day.” Replace “touch a clipboard” with whatever would make you feel particularly not in the spirit and repeat as necessary when delegating feels like more work than its worth.

First, make a list of who might be willing to lend a hand. Resolve not to feel bad about asking people to do things. Many people enjoy a chance to help out at a wedding, especially if it doesn’t mean having to buy an expensive dress they’ll never wear again.

Next, make a list of what needs doing. How will guests know where to park? Who will direct them to their seats? Who will give the musicians the cue that people are ready to process? Who will pick up the wine? Pay the caterer? Decide when dinner is served? Make your list comprehensive and detailed, and then group related tasks that would make sense to give one person.

And now consider adding one more role to your list. At the rehearsal for my sister-in-law’s wedding, the minister solemnly introduced my sister-in-law’s housemate to the assembled company as “the dictator.” Her word was final, he explained. No one walked until she said walk. She was responsible for knowing when everyone was ready, and all sorts of other things we needn’t bother our heads with. If we had a question, we went to her.

We followed my sister-in-law’s wonderful example and enlisted a dictator of our own. People with more specific roles—setting up the altar, laying out the wedding certificate for people to sign—reported to him. He handled all the things we hadn’t thought of. He coordinated between the attendants and the band and the officiate, and gave the word for the procession to start, figured out at the last minute how to conceal the broom we would later jump over, and other things I never even heard about. I think.

A word to the wise: Don’t pick your mother, or your mother-in-law, for dictator. Tell them that they have a very special role as family, and they shouldn’t be distracted from it. Do pick someone who is organized, and who exhibits grace under pressure. Someone who knows a lot of the people who will be there also helps.

Now match up people and tasks, and ask. If you’ve got a lot of faith in the universe, you may be able to get away with last-minute delegating. “I handed some poles, a lace tablecloth, and I think some string to [four friends and family members] and said ‘Here, make a chuppah,’ and when we got back from taking pre-ceremony photos, there was in fact a chuppah!” recounts a friend. College friends of mine assigned major parts of the ceremony—like the invocation and prompting vows—the night before to the guests who were staying over. (My partner got up at 6 AM to write the invocation. It came out wonderfully, but it wasn’t what she’d been expecting to do that morning.)

Last-minute is better than nothing, but in most cases, you’ll want to give people some notice, especially if they’ll need to show up early or have a change of shoes for the muddy parking lot.

Don’t make your helpers do your planning for you. As much as possible, give them written lists of exactly what you want—which people the ceremony can’t start without, what to say when you enter the reception—and anything else they need (lists of who is staying in what room, checks for vendors). “Helpful and resourceful friends made a huge difference,” says one bride. “But we’ve been told by some of those friends after they helped out at other weddings that the fact that we had most of the details taken care of meant they could both be helpful and relax and enjoy the day.”

Bring extra copies too—I briefly broke my own not-touching-a- clipboard rule when I had to scribble out the reception order for the MC who had left his cheat sheet at home.

In the end, though, if you really want to avoid logistics on the big day, you can’t just delegate, you have to empower. You can’t foresee everything. “We delegated the picking up of the wedding cake from the bakery,” says Emma, who was married in May 2000. The person who got the cake then “jumped in and went out to a bodega for bags of ice to put around it until cutting time, what with the unexpected 95-degree weather.” Emma and her partner had also rented a church garden for their wedding, and discovered upon arrival that the chairs they needed were locked in the church basement—which could only be reached through the sanctuary, in which a service was in full swing. To this day they don’t know how their guests managed to get the chairs out.

Tell your helpers under what circumstances they should come to you for guidance—for example, anything that would up your cost by more than a certain amount, or whether to move to the rain site if the weather looks threatening. And then tell them not to come to you for anything else.

This is the scary part—letting go a little of the control. At my wedding, I’m pretty sure that the altar centerpiece ended up on the gift table and the flower girl’s bouquet ended up in a vase on the altar. But you know what? The flower girl had a bag of rose petals to throw and didn’t really need a bouquet too, and the centerpiece turned out to have been way too big for the altar. It came out fine, without my intervention.

And when I stepped out to the first phrases of the processional, my mind was on getting married. And nothing else.


2007 Bridal Guide Home

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